Tips and Tricks for Sea Turtle Nesting Season
By Erica Malpass
With summer here, sea turtle nesting season is approaching. With summer comes more and more people at the beach, but there are some things you need to remember while you’re enjoying your day in the sun. November- April is nesting season for Australia’s sea turtles, and with that comes some precautions that should be taken on our beaches. Sea turtles are threatened or endangered, so while you are out on the beach please be cautious and aware of your surroundings. We must do all we can to protect these amazing creatures. To help ensure the safety of our turtles, we have put together the top tips and tricks for you to know this nesting season.
Tips for the Nesting Season:
- If you notice tracks or a disturbance in the sand, RSPCA’s 1300 ANIMAL hotline (1300 264 625)
- If you see a turtle, do not disturb her or harass her. Lights and noise can startle nesting females so if you want to take a picture, be sure your flash is turned OFF and remain quiet!
- Maintain a respectful distance! Large crowds can cause an immense amount of stress on the nesting female
- Do not tread on or disturb turtle nests, they are listed as endangered or vulnerable species and any type of disturbance could lead to a hefty fine.
- Throw away your rubbish so as not to attract any unwanted pests. We need to avoid any potential predation of nests that can occur. Also, clearing rubbish will ensure the safety of the hatchling’s health as they make their way to the ocean
- Do not try to feed turtles, this can cause them more harm
- If you see any suspicious behaviour, please report it!
Following this list will help ensure that both nesting females and their hatchlings are safe and that we have a successful nesting season.
To follow the quick tips and tricks for a successful nesting season, you need to be aware of the most popular nesting beaches in your area. The Queensland Coast is famous for sea turtle nesting as well as other regions in Australia. Here are just a few of the top beaches around the region that you may experience seeing a nesting sea turtle:
- Mon Repos Conservation Regional Park
- Great Barrier Reef Islands
- Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
- Bare Sand Island, Northern Territory
This summer if you have a chance to visit any of these beaches or you live near one, make sure to watch out for turtle nesting! It’s an amazing experience that you will remember for a lifetime. Also, remember that although these are some of the most well-known beaches, turtles will nest anywhere so you never know which beach you will see a turtle nesting on. Just remember to follow our tips!
Sea Turtle Foundation held a community engagement day and beach clean up at Cape Pallarenda on October 9th.
The day was well attended with over 30 attendees and some scouts even came down to help clean up the beach. Tangaroa Blue was on hand to give a much appreciated hand with sorting the rubbish and collecting the data. In total we collected 31Kg of rubbish which was a great effort considering the beach at Cape Pallarenda is considered to be relatively clean. It just goes to show how much rubbish is on our beaches. Recently it was reported that an estimated 50% of marine turtles within Australian waters will have plastic in their systems. Cleaning our beaches is important but the real difference will only be made when people stop littering and cease the use of one use plastic products. A key item found at the clean up was cigarette butts, with over 200 found, it was really disappointing to find an item that takes 1-5 years to break down so prominent on our beaches. Other key items collected were plastic bottles (which take approximately 450 years to break down) and straws.
After the clean up participants were invited up to the old quarantine station buildings for some light refreshments and some talks regarding turtle conservation and research. These were presented in conjunction with QPWS, Tangaroa Blue and the JCU Turtle Health Research Group.
A key aim for the day was to establish a good network and relationship with our stranding response volunteers. Again we encourage anyone interested in this program and undertaking online stranding training to email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Stranding numbers are currently relatively low but it is important that Sea Turtle Foundation and QPWS continue to build strong relationships with our volunteers so they can be called upon again when stranding numbers inevitably increase due to weather events. It was good to see some familiar faces as well as some new volunteers. Anyone who would like to volunteer with STF in any capacity whether it be helping out in the office, fundraising or joining the stranding response team please contact us, we would love to hear from you.
After a successful classroom talk with Chris Pacey’s Year 11 Marine Science Class at St. Patrick’s College, STF joined forces with the JCU Turtle Health Research team to arrange a special field experience for the students.
On Wednesday September 14th, the St. Patrick’s Year 11 Marine Science Class, JCU Turtle Health Research Group and STF met at Toolakea beach to do some field work in the tidal pools and contribute to long term data collection and monitoring of the juvenile green turtle population at Toolakea. It was a very successful day and a great example of collaboration between the three groups. The girls seemed to have a great day and STF Project Officer, Alice enjoyed another opportunity to get out in the field and assist with both education and marine turtle research.
STF would like to thank Dr. Ellen Ariel making the day possible and her team of volunteers for assisting with the students and the turtles.
Whilst this field experience was a special and rare opportunity for the St. Pat’s girls, STF is able to do class room talks for students of all ages in both the Cairns and Townsville regions. So please send an email to email@example.com if you are a teacher and are interested in having STF come to your classroom to give a talk on marine turtles.
Sea Turtle Foundation was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of JCU Turtle Health Research Group’s “Caraplace” on August 10th. It was a great day which celebrated a lot of hard work by Dr Ellen Ariel and her team at JCU. The research facility currently houses 42 turtles and facilitates a number of ground breaking studies. Sea Turtle Foundation is proud of the involvement we have with the JCU Turtle Health Research group and the creation of “Caraplace” and we hope to continue this involvement into the future. The research centre is the first known purpose built turtle health research facility in the world and is already allowing for a number of exciting studies to occur. We wish Ellen and her team the best for the future and hope that STF can continue to work closely with the Research Group.
Last month Sea Turtle Foundation’s Program Manager Johanna Karam attended the 3rd Australian Sea Turtle Symposium in Darwin, below is a reflection of her time in Darwin:
“Turtles were all anyone was talking about in Darwin during August. Well at least that was the case for five days when I was lucky enough to attend the 3rd Australian Sea Turtle Symposium (ASTS) followed by a two-day Hawksbill Crisis Workshop.
The ASTS brought together turtle scientists, carers and managers from across Australia to exchange information about programs protecting marine turtle species and share research that is helping us to understand issues that affect our beloved marine reptiles. Representatives from Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia also came along to be a part of regional turtle talks. On day two, symposium participants headed out to Charles Darwin University to meet some olive ridley hatchlings and ‘Hef’, an adult hawksbill who was be rehabilitated after being rescued from a private zoo. Well done to AusTurtle in the Northern Territory for pulling together this fabulous three-day event.
Long-term monitoring of Milman Island in the northern Great Barrier Reef shows that local populations of nesting hawksbills are in serious decline. In response, WWF Australia organised a two-day workshop between Australian state and federal government agencies and non-governmental organisations along with colleagues from Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and New Caledonia to discuss what can be done to conserve and restore populations in the Indo-Pacific region. Regulation for the protection of marine turtles in Australia is strong there are concerns that the hawksbills are being killed during their migration into the waters of our regional neighbours to the north. The main identified threats to the species were hunting and incidental catches in the fishing industry, which feed the illegal tortoise shell trade. Egg harvesting and the loss of suitable nesting habitat due to climate change were also raised as causes for concern. The status of hawksbill turtles is poorly understood in Western Australia and the Northern Territory and it was agreed that more information is needed so that we can figure out what is happening to these populations and determine if they heading on the same downward trajectory as the western Pacific population. In the mean time, participants agreed that we all need to work together to do more to protect this beautiful and iconic species.
Both of these events provided a fabulous opportunity to catch up with old colleagues from the turtle world and introduce myself and the Sea Turtle Foundation to others. Hopefully some useful partnerships will emerge between the Sea Turtle Foundation and other regional players so that we can continue to work together for the conservation and restoration of marine turtles.”
On October 9th at 2pm STF will hold a beach clean up and community engagement day with our volunteers. The day will commence with a beach clean up at Cape Pallarenda, this will be followed by a number of talks from a variety of organisations regarding their work in turtle research and conservation. And finally people will have the chance to mingle and network over food and refreshments through a grant provided by the Townsville City Council’s Mayor’s Community Giving Fund.
Our key use for volunteers is our stranding response program however in recent times there has been very few strandings following the grow back of seagrass beds after Cyclone Yasi in 2011. This has meant we haven’t had to use many of our wonderful trained, volunteers, however all it takes is another event like Cyclone Yasi for us and QPWS to be inundated by stranded and dead turtles again. WE hope this day will give us the opportunity to retain contact with volunteers and allow them to build networks with each other to ensure we are equipped if another spike in marine strandings was to occur.
We hope that the day will allow volunteers the opportunity to reengage with STF and our partners, learn about what turtle conservation and research programs are happening in the region and help clean up the beach at Cape Pallarenda. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to RSVP.
Sea Turtle Foundation Community Engagement Day
The Sea Turtle Foundation recently assisted in running two Marine Animal Stranding Training days in collaboration with QPWS, GBRMPA, Reef HQ and the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.
The days at Townsville and Mission Beach were both a success and it is great to see so many people in the community enthusiastic to learn and assist with marine stranding response. The Townsville group were even lucky enough to see the potential hybrid at Reef HQ! We had an overwhelming interest in the training days and successfully trained over 50 participants. Thank you to everyone who participated in the training days and QPWS, GBRMPA, Reef HQ and Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre for working with Sea Turtle Foundation to make these days a success.
For anyone else who is interested in learning about Marine Animal Stranding Response, QPWS will release online training in June. We will post details on our website when this occurs.